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Oops:20 Life Lessons From The Fiascoes That Shaped America Hardcover – Mar 2 2006

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (March 2 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060780835
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060780838
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.6 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 386 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,316,683 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Although its composition seems occasionally arbitrary, this addition to the weird history subgenre is as informative as it is entertaining. Smith and Kiger (Poplorica) take 20 of American history's biggest "flops, goofs, misjudgments, and fiascoes" (mainly from the 20th century) and attempt to extract a "meaningful lesson" from each, the latter more difficult than simply telling an embarrassing story. For instance, "Beware Solutions That Create New Problems" profiles Thomas Midgeley, the innovator who added poisonous lead to gasoline and invented ozone-killing CFCs, which made him responsible for more atmospheric damage than any other man in history. Most enjoyable are the chapters on jaw-droppingly ridiculous decisions, such as Jimi Hendrix opening for the Monkees in 1967 or the 1974 Cleveland Indians' 10-cent beer night that turned into one of pro sports' ugliest riots. Some subjects seem more like misguided incidents than fiascoes (e.g., inventors' unending quest for a flying car, the Y2K scare), but there are plenty of corkers, like the hubristic flameout that was the football-wrestling hybrid XFL. A "bonus" chapter crams in other goodies for a nice finish, from the well known (e.g., the CIA's Castro assassination plots) to the obscure (e.g., equine sushi ice cream). (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"A terrific read." (Richard Lederer, author of A Man of My Words)

"A playful look at 20 gargantuan gaffes in American history" (Daily Breeze)

"Informative, entertaining, and. . .educational" (Los Angeles Times)

". . .as informative as it is entertaining." (Publishers Weekly)

"Life is full of bad ideas, and Oops explores the best of the worst." (Sacramento Bee)

"Oops is a shockingly funny, fascinating, and intelligent book that the reader can't put down. It's a magnificent discovery." (Lynne Cox, New York Times bestselling author of Swimming to Antarctica)

"Oops is a hilarious look at human ingenuity gone horribly wrong." (Will Shortz, Crossword Editor, the New York Times)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9992adf8) out of 5 stars 4 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x99c739b4) out of 5 stars Entertaining and Informative April 1 2006
By Jijnasu Forever - Published on
Format: Hardcover
In a very entertaining and informative account of what the authors considers "fiascos", the book narrates various incidents, fads, and "strategic thinking" that were...well, not so successful. A range of 'stories' from religious movements founded on interesting sex mores, y2k bug, paper fashion, battle of towers in Boston, plans for assasination of Castro, Cleveland Indians' beer promotion, and Edison killing an elephant (!) are all part of this book. Some stories are so interesting, it is a surprise that they have been obscure so far. On that front, the author scores full points. It is a little disappointing that the authors were not able to locate any interesting pictures or photos of the events narrated. Instead they focus on a very amateurish-looking "ingridient list" for each of the 'fiasco' narrated in the chapter. The book is very neatly organized - each chapter focusing on a specific event/trend. Quite humorous writing style adds to the enjoyment of the book. A good read.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x99a3806c) out of 5 stars You'll Keep Quoting This Book April 19 2006
By Philip Reed - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This hilarious book is lots of fun to read and even more fun to tell people about. You'll be amazed that you haven't heard of these things before. Smith and Kiger have this way of rolling out odd little details in a dry way that really build a humorous picture without trying to be funny. My favorite story was about 10 cent beer night at the Cleveland Indians baseball game in 1974. They start by telling how Cleveland was suffering from an image problem because the river had recently caught fire and the Cleveland Mayor had ignited his hair with a blow torch at a ribbon cutting ceremony. You know the rest of the story will only get better. Buy it. Read it. Quote it.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x997f56d8) out of 5 stars An Entertaining Guide to the Mistooks of Our Time May 22 2006
By diskojoe - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book is an entertaining and informative look of some of the major fiascoes of American popular history. I have witnessed or at least heard about the majority of the mistakes displayed here. For example, I remember seeing the John Hancock Tower partially covered in plywood on childhood trips to Boston (although the book doesn't mention this, I believe that the surviving panes of glass went to Building #19, a locally famous salvage/overstock store here in the Boston area, for sale for the uses described by the authors). The authors do a good job in filling out the facts behind the fiascoes (I didn't realize that I wasn't the only one who couldn't stand Clippy). As a previous reviewer stated, the one problem that I did have with the book is a lack of a photo section, as items such as paper dresses, the Dodge LaFemme, the rockin' Tacoma Narrows Bridge & Flying Cars need to be seen. I also didn't care too much for the "receipe" section that ended each chapter. Despite this, I do recommend this book to be added to your own Dynamic File of Trivia.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x99a0dd50) out of 5 stars Fascinating, but Strange March 19 2013
By A. Bowdoin Van Riper - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is a very strange book.

Situated somewhere between feature-story journalism and popular history, it provides exactly what its subtitle promises: Twenty case studies of things - career moves, inventions, marketing strategies - that seemed like good ideas in theory, but went horribly wrong in practice. The authors are journalists, and their dedication to the journalist's fundamental craft of getting the facts and presenting them clearly shows on every page. Each of the twenty short chapters is comprehensive, detailed, and well-sourced without ever feeling dry or dull, and each of them opens with a useful 2-3 paragraph overview of the idea, why it seemed promising, and how it went wrong. Taken individually, the chapters are superb. Those on the chemist who gave the world both leaded gasoline and CFCs, on the kudzu that blankets the American South, on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse, and on the window-shedding John Hancock Building in Boston are the best introductions to those subjects I've ever read.

The quality of the research and the writing extends even to the more offbeat case studies - ones that, in less-careful hands, would have descended into smirk and snark. Smith and Kiger write about the offbeat sexual practices of the utopian, nineteenth-century Oneida Community without leering, and trace the spectacular flameout of world heavyweight boxing champion Leon Spinks' career without sneering. Many books on the history of technology and "weird history" recount the story of Thomas Edison staging the public electrocution of an elephant; Smith and Kiger provide the context you never knew was missing by recounting the history of other elephant executions. Many music fans of a certain age know that, for a brief time in the late 1960s, rising guitar god Jimi Hendrix opened for the pre-fab pop group The Monkees . . . but that's all they know about it. Smith and Kiger tell the other 99% of the story, asking (and providing a serious and plausible answer to) every music fan's first question: "What were they thinking?" Astoundingly, it actually does make sense in context.

The book's blend of topics - the grotesque (elephant electrocution), the farcical (the Hendrix-Monkees double bill), the tragic (Leon Spinks' self-destructiveness), and the deadly serious (the John Hancock Building) - lies at the heart of its strangeness. The authorial "voice" is consistent throughout, but the content swerves all over the map. The rise and fall of the Xtreme Football League shares space with the partial destruction of the Earth's ozone layer by CFCs, and the ecological catastrophe of kudzu with the paper dress. The strangeness is intensified by Smith and Kiger's definition of "fiasco," which encompasses everything from the impractical (flying cars) and the faddish (leisure suits) to the lethally dangerous (the Tacoma Narrows Bridge). The fact that each chapter ends with a small, boxed inset distilling each case study into a literal "recipe" for disaster brings it to a peak.

If you're interested enough in the subject matter to be reading this review, you'll almost certainly find the book interesting. Just be aware that you're in for a very strange read.